Country Corner reader Bob Smith has been busy with his camera again. This time Bob has sent in a very good, close and clear picture of a Dunnock in his garden, with the timely reminder we should not forget to provide for our garden birds in winter.
This wee ‘hedge sparrow’, to use its former name, is a handsome but secretive little bird which often escapes notice. You probably have one or two in your garden as often as you have a Robin, but you are far more likely to notice and recognise the Robin.
I can see why Dunnocks were called hedge sparrows as they are the general brown colour and size of our ever-present House Sparrows and probably escape human notice by merging into the crowd.
In fact Dunnocks even escaped any serious study by ornithologists until recently. Only in the last few years has this bird been the subject of in depth scientific study, and the results have been startling.
It turns out the breeding behaviour of Dunnocks would make a racy soap opera! They may form normal male-female pairs, but may also from ‘pairs’ consisting two males and one female, or even two males and two females. Males are also prone to sneak off and try to mate with females in the territories of other ‘pairs’. There are even aspects of Dunnock breeding I cannot tell you in a family newspaper!
Suffice to say the plain wee Dunnock displays some of the most fascinating and surprising behaviour of all our garden birds! So, as Bob says, keep up the bird feeding, but see if you can pick out the Hedgie among the Spuggies. He may not be as dapper as the Robin, but boy, could he tell a tale or two!
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